Out of the past, April 1980

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From time to time Motor Sport‘s readers send me much interesting material, such as a photostat of a page from the one-time Douglas Company’s house-magazine The Con-Road, of which I had not heard previously. This came to me from Mr. Geoff Lee of Ruislip and is dated 1927. It is about a racing car assembled by C. G. Pullin from parts he imported from America, for use at Brooklands in 1911. Now I knew that Cyril Pullin became a well-known Douglas rider but I had not associated him with car racing.

However, here is evidence that, when he was not more than 18, not only was he racing a 964 cc JAP Special motorcycle at the Track but also this 24 h.p. air-cooled Cameron, “Tatercan”. It was apparently assembled from standard Cameron parts, in the Vauxhall Bridge Road in London, which is where, in later years, Eldridge built his giant Isotta-Maybach — one wonders whether the premises were the same?

It seems that this Cameron was a very lightweight car, which proved impossible to hold in windy weather until its front-wheel discs had been removed. The wooden wheels were shod with 32″ x 3″ tyres. The front axle was tubular and the gearbox was incorporated in the back-side. The weight of the car is given as 8¾ cwt. There was a dummy vee-radiator but a fan cooled the cylinders. A feature of the engine was the horizontal valves, as in a Lanchester, operated by long rockers from camshafts on each side of the engine. The valves themselves were housed in c.i. cages, held onto spherical seatings by yokes. A large exhaust pipe ran along the n/s of this sketchily-bodied racer. It is described as one of the first Brooklands silencers but this is incorrect, because such silencing wasn’t introduced until 1924. Two scoops in the bonnet-top are described as air-scoops onto the exhaust-pipe but were more likely to have been the carburetter intakes. This Cameron was apparently a standard chassis, said to have won seven cups in nine races. It used Low Plugs (the invention of Prof. A. M. Low), Gabriel snubbers, a Zenith carburetter, a Mea oscillating magneto, and was lubricated with Sternol oil. The wheels had rirns that were detachable, and which sometimes flew off of their own volition, and the Firestone tyres had Schrader valves which could only be inflated with a tin-pump imported from America.

The article says this Cameron lapped at 84 m.p.h. and was timed over the kilometre at 91 m.p.h., which was pretty quick for a standard car in 1911. From my Brooklands records I see that Pullin continued to run his 3-litre Cameron in 1912, when it won the Second 75 MPH Handicap, lapping at 66.39 m.p.h, and was third in the “75 Long”. Is does not seem to have lapped at much over 68 m.p.h. Apparently the boy was agent for Cameron in this country but had to give up when the Cameron Company went into liquidation for a time. In subsequent years Pullin appeared at Brooklands with a 499 c.c. Rudge, as did his brother, and he won the 1914 TT, presumably joining Douglas after the war. In 1922 he was the first rider of a 500 c.c. machine to exceed 100 m.p.h. at Brooklands — on a flat-twin Douglas.

W.B.